When it comes to grammar, I just don’t give a shit. You can start sentences with conjunctions and end them with prepositions. I don’t (usually) care whether your subject and verb agree in number. Use all the double negatives you want; I’m on your side. Sentence fragments are our friends. Everything your English teacher told you is wrong. Free your mind. Just try to make sense.
Last night a local television news program did a feature on the idiots who were lined up, and in some cases had been lined up since Wednesday, outside of WalMart and Best Buy for the consumer orgy known as Black Friday. One woman smiled that she “just wanted to get a jump start on” her shopping. Shortly thereafter, Local News Lady assured the camera that a lot of people were “getting a jump start on their shopping.”
Well, I thought, that’s all kinds of wrong, but it’s just two women from South Carolina, one of whom was just repeating what the other had said. Surely people don’t really talk like that.
Yes, they do.
A Google search for “get a jump start on” returned about 14,600,000 results, and “get a jumpstart on” yielded about 944,000 results. Some of the first results were:
“Get a Jump Start on College”
“College: 10 Step Guides – Get a Jumpstart on College Admission.”
The Idaho Commission for Libraries “encourages parents of children registering for kindergarten to ‘Get a Jump Start on Reading @ Your Library.'”
This must stop.
“Jump start” means using jumper cables to start a vehicle. You hook the dead battery up to a live battery, which enables you to start your car after leaving the headlights on all night. By analogy, you can “jump start” anything that’s stalled or disabled — the Mideast Peace process, for instance, or your sex life.
If you’re starting something early, possibly in the hope of gaining an advantage over others who start later, you’re getting a jump on it. Just a jump, not a jump start.
“I just wanted to get a jump on my shopping.”
Like that, see? It’s shorter. It’s easier. And it makes sense.
Oh, and by the way, Idaho Commission for Libraries: I understand that the use of the at sign has gone all to hell in recent years. It doesn’t just mean “at the rate of” anymore. I accept that. However, you’re the fucking Commission for Libraries, and you aren’t sending a text to your BFF. Spell out the word “at.” For God’s sake, just spell it out.